Graduate Theological Union

Resolving Conflict, Creating Dialog through Song

LattuIzak Lattu has been practicing interfaith relations his whole life — literally. In the Indonesian Moluccan Islands (also known as Moluccas, the Maluku Islands, or the Spice Islands), where he grew up, there is a tradition called Gandong, which means there is one womb and one family, even among villages of different religions. For example, although both of his parents’ villages are Christian, they have a gandong relationship of mutual support with other nearby Muslim villages. Lattu’s elementary school was a Christian school, but 80% of the children attending were Muslims; many became his close friends. As an ordained pastor in the Protestant Church of the Moluccas, Lattu brought young Muslims and Christians together to study, dialogue, work, and play at a Pesantren or Islamic boarding school.

So it is with great sadness that Lattu recounts the Christian-Muslim conflict that occurred in the Moluccas from 1999–2003. It was sparked by a fight between two young men — one Christian and one Muslim — that may not even have had anything to do with religion. As people took sides and spun stories about what had taken place, and political interests entered into the fray, what began as a tussle became a full-fledged conflagration between Christians and Muslims. Before it was over, more than 13,000 people were killed, 100,000 were wounded, and a million became refugees.

It is no accident, then, that Lattu, who is also Vice Dean and faculty member at Satya Wacana Christian University in Central Java, a Fulbright Scholar, and a recent (and first) recipient of the Virginia Hadsheel Global Church Leader Scholarship, is now studying Christian-Muslim dialogue.

As a 2nd-year Ph.D. student in Interdisciplinary Studies, Lattu sees himself one day returning to Indonesia to teach Christian, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist students to be open-minded about the others’ religions. “I want people to experience each other in real life,” he emphasizes. “My hope is that all sides will be open to one another, so that in real life they can make room in their hearts for one another.”

Meanwhile, in Berkeley, Lattu focuses his studies on a “local narrative” for Christian-Muslim dialogue. In the Moluccas, he explains, there is a strong oral tradition — a culture combining music, dance, and storytelling. He uses culture — which resonates with those in multiple religious traditions — as the entry point for Christian- Muslim dialogue.

To illustrate the use of music in conflict resolution in Indonesia, Lattu sings a popular song called “Gandong.” The song has the lilt of a lullaby and its lyrics convey the message that although people may have different beliefs, they have the same basic human spirit:

My brother/sister come on, I will tell you that we come from “one womb” …… to live together as younger sister/brother and older sister/brother is as sweet as sugar …… I feel what you feel and you feel what I feel …… We are brother and sister …… we come from the some womb …… we have the same heart and the same feeling.

“I see this song as a narrative of peace; one that can help create solidarity between the Christian and Muslim communities in Moluccas,” Lattu says. “After all, all Christians and Muslims are still Moluccan!”

Lattu presented two papers this year on the theme, “Religion, Culture and Conflict Resolution in Indonesia” — one at the International Conference on Conflict Resolution at Lancaster University, UK, in September and one at the International Conference on South East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto in October. He is grateful for his studies at the GTU and all those on his dissertation committee: Judith Berling (Interfaith Studies), Clare Fisher (Postcolonial and Sociology of Religion), Sylvia Tiwon (Narrative and Oral History in Indonesia), and Bill O’Neill (Ethics and Conflict Resolution).